VAMOS, they are all over the place. You can’t turn a corner, watch a game of soccer, get an olive oil massage or grab a bottle of Casal Garcia these days without bumping into a Porra.
I was schooled in the Catholic sanctuary of Christian Brothers College, Green Point, so have seen my share of folk from the land of the Hairy Armpit. But currently the Portuguese are descending on South Africa like a Christiano Ronaldo paternity suite.
Preparing for a 1,600km road trip with a 100% Porto homo sapiens, ,I recently ventured to Societi Bistro in the Cape to find some solace and wi-fi, going on-line to brush-up on my caldo verde recipes, Portuguese soccer history and expressions with which to curse the Spanish. Lo and behold there was Neil Pendock and a guy who looked like a happier version of Porra soccer coach Jos+¬ Mourinho and was ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ just like Mourinho – also full on Portuguese.
I hadn’t even had time to share the first joke about Ronaldo’s most recent love child before the charming bloke shoved a glass of wine into my hand. So this was Anibal Coutinho, whose reputation preceded his recent visits to South Africa. A Lisbon-based wine writer, critic and sometime winemaker, Anibal had been introduced to South Africa by Pendock for the compilation of The People’s Guide, the Portuguese insight adding to the spectrum of objectivity in this blind-tasted wine guide.
Anibal exudes a love of life, wine and humour ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ three typically Portuguese characteristics, although things turned quite introspective when I began sipping from the glass I had been given. Switching from our conversation in fluent Portuguese to accommodate Pendock and a couple of bystanders, Anibal was handing out a penny for thoughts on the wine.
Turns out, this wine ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ a Chenin Blanc ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ had been made by him earlier this year. Called Astronaut, it was the result of Anibal’s restless ambition to immerse himself in different and new grapes and wine regions. And what better way for a wine commentator to get to grips with a foreign country’s wine culture than to roll up the sleeves and to start working some juice?
The result is two Astronaut wines ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ the Chenin and a Pinotage ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ both made from the 2010 vintage, by Anibal in the Swartland Winery.
“You want to make wine in South Africa, it surely must be Chenin Blanc and Pinotage, your two most famous varieties?”stated Anibal.
The Chenin oozes Swartland. As mineral and exotic as licking a pile of Paardeberg granite from a Brazilian fado singer. All clean, un-wooded fruit but expressing an elegant, weighty power and alluring waxiness.
A wine of this structure could handle some pretty seriously wooding, but Anibal was not going there.
“In my wine-making ventures in Portugal I have messed-up too many wines with wrong wood and incorrect barrel management,” he said. “So I say ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+ëno wood’. The terroir and the fruit has enough force and strength to stand alone.”
The Pinotage, too, was a lovely refreshing and juicy wine sans barrique or chips. Plush red fruit and bramble, there were no cloying phenolics or eye-watering afterburns. I was very surprised to hear that Anibal had fermented the Pinotage for eight days, a relatively long period for this variety ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Guy Webber from Stellenzicht who was standing next to me waxes his Pinotage in three days.
Leaving Pinotage too long in contact with the pips can be a real bastardo, leading to grappa-like sharpness. But somehow the lengthy integration of skin, pulp and juice had smoothened the Astronaut, calmed the ferment and produced a very moreish drop.
The wines had been a hit at the Wine, Food and Design in Jozi, the allocated show supply selling out ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Anibal’s easy continental charm obviously playing no small part.
The next step is to find a price for the wine. “I don’t know much about South African economics, but perhaps R40 for each wine? When it comes to pricing wine I am like Manuel from Barcelona ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ I know-a-nothing. Everything I do, each new project is just done in the language of love, which to me is wine.”
Is there a Portuguese word for ol+¬?
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